The Morning Call (Sunday)

All Day: Buckeyes’ offensive evolution

OSU coach has transforme­d his team in recent seasons

- By Ralph D. Russo

Much has been made of Alabama’s transforma­tion from a dynasty built on Nick Saban’s calling card lock-downdefens­e to one powered by a prolific offense.

No. 3 Ohio State, which faces the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Monday night in the national championsh­ip game, has undergone an offensive evolution of its own in recent years.

Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s desire to rejuvenate an attack that was shut out in the 2016 playoff by Clemson led him to Ryan Day, who provided exactly what the Buckeyes needed to become more potent and — as a huge bonus — ended up being an ideal successor to his former boss.

“When he got here, I had the opportunit­y just to see him coach. I knew we were going to be different,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. “His football IQ overall is phenomenal, but offensivel­y it’s at another level. He’s a creative thinker. His ability to analyze and dissect, you know, the chess game, so to speak, is really, really outstandin­g.”

Day was hired as quarterbac­ks coach and co-offensive coordinato­r by Meyer in 2017, just days after the Buckeyes lost 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal to Clemson. Since then, Ohio State’s offense has taken off. Not only have the Buckeyes become more productive, but the way they play has helped make the program a more desirable destinatio­n for bluechip quarterbac­ks.

Sort of like Alabama.

“We had a pretty prolific offense with that we were doing, but we needed to recognize what was happening around us,” Smith said.

The last time Ohio State won a national championsh­ip was 2014, the first year of the playoff. Meyer’s spread offense leaned heavily on the read-option and quarterbac­k running game. J.T. Barrett played most of that season at quarterbac­k and became a Heisman Trophy contender. Famously, Cardale Jones stepped in after Barrett was injured late in the season and led the Buckeyes to the title.

Jones was not as good a runner as Barrett, but had a much bigger arm to stretch the field. That seemed to help when the Buckeyes faced Alabama in the semifinals.

The next two seasons, Ohio State’s offense produced good numbers and the team continued to pile up victories. Ontalent and athleticis­m alone, the Buckeyes could overwhelm most opponents but the offense was occasional­ly inconsiste­nt — especially against the best competitio­n.

The low point came against Clemson in Arizona. The Buckeyes had nine first downs and 215 total yards.

“I’m not used to it. We’re not used it. It’s not going to happen again,” Meyer said then.

Meyer cleaned house and hired Day, who was coming off a two-year stint in the NFL, and former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to be co-offensive coordinato­rs.

“When we came here it wasn’t like we were putting ideas in. We were learning what Coach Meyer wanted us to do, period,” Wilson said.

Day said his discussion­s with Meyer were mostly about how best to utilize talent.

“Each year it’s changed, tweaked here and there, but at the end of the day I think the basis of (the offense) has pretty muchstayed the same,” Day said this week.

Day’s roots go back to NewHampshi­re, where he played quarterbac­k for Chip Kelly, who was offensive coordinato­r at the FCSschool. Kelly had known Day for years before coaching him.

“When he was done playing and got into coaching it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Kelly, nowhead coach at UCLA.

Day landed on Meyer’s staff in Florida as a graduate assistant and stayed connected to Meyer’s coaching tree, working with Steve Addazio, a former Florida assistant, at Temple and Boston College.

Kelly brought Day to the NFL for two seasons with Philadelph­ia and San Francisco. When Day returned to college football he did so with the blueprint of an NFL passing game that attacks the field more vertically than Meyer’s offense did.

Day also brought an understand­ing of maybe the biggest difference between the NFL and college game: You can’t be the same team every week.

 ?? CHRIS GRAYTHEN/GETTY ?? OSU’s Justin Fields, left, and head coach Ryan Day react after defeating Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
CHRIS GRAYTHEN/GETTY OSU’s Justin Fields, left, and head coach Ryan Day react after defeating Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA